In Walker Percy’s Second Coming, as Will Barrett is almost killed by a stray bullet and, through the close encounter with death, discovers that he has barely been living. Newly aware, He asks his wife’s priest “Do you believe in God?” and watched the priest dance around the answer. It simple question that the priest should have been able to answer, even if it were just “sometimes” or “I try to believe”. Even “No” would have meant something. Instead, the priest avoids a direct answer. The priest embraces safety rather than life.
Too many politicians make this same mistake and succumb to death even while they live. Clark isn’t any exemption to the rule. Today, a reporter asked him about his stand on abortion rights and earlier they asked weather he thought Bush really was a deserter.
A politician will avoid giving an answer that he thinks will hurt him and perhaps that’s what Clark was doing, but in doing so, it makes him look like he lacks principles. Instead of saying what he thinks — and let’s face it, any answer is going cost him votes somewhere — he embraced the safely ambiguous.
The claim was made that it doesn’t matter what he thinks (except when he appoints judges), but whether his opinion matters or not, he should be able to give his opinion and, later, act in accordance with those opinions.
From what I saw of Clark before tonight’s primary in New Hampshire, I think he is a principled person. To win some states next week, he needs to show those principles even more. Otherwise, it’ll be between the Dean and Kerry. Dean, because people see his anger and take it for principled action. Kerry, because some are simply voting for whoever they think can beat Bush.
Clark appears to be giving in to the siren song of politics. To avoid political death, he has to take some stands instead of avoiding them.